The New Irish Coffee: Where to Café-Hop in Dublin
As one tradition withers, another is born.
“Ireland’s pub culture is dying away,” according to Colin Harmon, and the 37-year-old godfather of Dublin’s third-wave coffee scene sees his industry as the millennial heir. “A lot of the social aspect of pubs, amongst customers and staff, is seeping into how we run cafes.”
Harmon is the founder of seminal café-roast house 3fe and regarded as an Irish Johnny Appleseed of coffee, planting Ethiopian and Nicaraguan beans around the city, from which dozens of quality-obsessed cafes have sprouted over the past five years.
“When we opened, there wasn’t really any specialty coffee shops in the city. Simple touch-points like single-origin coffees, latte art, the equipment we used, the info we were getting on the coffees were just miles away from everything else that was on offer.”
Darren Free, a 3fe client and owner of Delahunt, a restaurant and café housed in a restored, peacock-blue Victorian grocery, agrees, “Colin brought specialty coffee to Ireland.” The Delahunt coffee menu goes deep into detail, from the 3fe beans to the equipment (Victoria Arduino Black Eagle 2, German-made Mahlkoning EK46 grinder, Kalita Wave filter brewer) to the source of the dairy in the flat whites. “We want our guests to have an amazing experience with us from start to finish, and the last thing you have before you leave is coffee.”
As the scene has matured, other roasters launched, like Full Circle from 3fe veteran Brian Birdy and Cloud Picker Coffee, which opened a café this spring and supplies more than 40 local spots, from indies like Oxmantown to Google’s campus cafe.
Among the most popular new places for coffee in Dublin is Two Pups, a scrappy café that’s part of an alt-department store called the Francis Street Collective. (Look for the pink door with the red lightening bolt.) Two Pups draws young Dubliners for single-origin espressos, drop-in meditation sessions and chocolate-dipped dates filled with rose tahini.
Before getting into coffee, co-owner Kevin Douglas was a plumber and nutritionist who, like Harmon, got bit by the coffee bug and jumped into the business with his wife and partner, Zoe Ewing. “Two pups,” according to the Irish Times, “is Dublin slang for cheeky upstarts.”
Of which there are many, both coffee-related and non-, another reason for the capital’s café supernova. “As the economy recovers the cafes are becoming central meeting points for startups,” says Harmon. Given Dublin’s booming tech sector, the coffee should only get stronger.
Know before you go:
You’ll hear Dubliners call for flat whites, cappuccinos, and lattes in the city’s cafes, but don’t sweat the verbiage.
“Every milky coffee we sell is in fact a flat white, and this would be the case in all the high-end coffee shops in the city,” says Delahunt’s Darren Free. “If you ask for a latte, cappuccino, flat white your getting 18 grams of coffee brewed for 36 seconds served in an eight-ounce cup, unless you go to old-school coffee shops that serve lattes in tall glasses and cappuccinos in massive 12oz cups your going to be served a flat white.”